Josh Turnbull and Trystan Bevan has given us an exclusive behind-the-scene look at the first phase of Cardiff’s pre-season preparations.
The majority of the Blue and Blacks’ on-field training over the opening four and a half weeks combined intense fitness work - in record-breaking temperatures - with rugby skills.
Whether on the famous Arms Park pitch or in the Matrix High Performance Gym, it’s safe to say the squad gave their all in the first few weeks of the 22/23 campaign.
On Saturday mornings, the squad also took part in weekly recovery sessions at various locations, such as Barry Island and Pontcanna Fields, while they also enjoyed the Aqua Park in Cardiff Bay during the final week.
We caught up with Turnbull and Head of Physical Performance, Bevan, as Phase One drew to a close.
We are integrating the rugby into our pre-season programme early this year, making sure we get the ball in hand. The programme designed by the S&C department alongside the rugby coaches ensures that the output the players give us are well above the stresses you get in games.
The training has involved a lot more of the ball and they will encounter more of the scenarios you’re expected to face on the field.
We’re very happy with the way it’s gone during the first block, and the feedback from the players is that it’s been very challenging but they’ve had to use their brain, as well as their lungs, to get through it.
Finding out where the game is going is an ever-moving target. Playing against different opposition will present different challenges but the end result in every game is that you need to play for 80 minutes as best as you can.
You’re competing with multiple challenges at the same time - such as physical, cardiovascular or rugby strategy challenges - so in having these rugby hybrid sessions, we’re trying to piece them together to generate a session that provides the right stresses for players. That’s not only from a psychological and physiological point of view, but also when it comes to executing rugby skills as well.
The rugby coaches have been great in providing that, which helps me from a fitness coach point of view.
The gym is a great asset for us, and we can’t thank Matrix enough. They’ve made a huge investment in the club, which is great and shows faith in Cardiff as a brand.
I’ve worked in England, and know what a lot of those teams have got in terms of facilities, and we have one of the top three gyms in British rugby.
We’ve also got Ryan Campbell on board as a strength and power coach this year, and that gives us an element of resource to be able to provide the players with what they want.
One of the very important thing for us has been integrating that team culture. You see on some Friday that players are crawling to their cars at the end of a hard-hitting week of training, so the emphasis on a Saturday morning has been on having a bit of a sweat and recovery.
We’ve been to the sea twice, been to Pontcanna Fields as well, and it’s a part of wanting to go somewhere different.
As much as the Arms Park is an iconic venue and a fantastic place to work, you don’t want to get too familiar with what is an amazing set-up.
Going away helps you realise what you’ve got on your doorstep and on Saturday it’s been good to have the boys training, recovering and having a coffee or breakfast after the session. It brings us closer together.
The amount of hours that players have spent together over pre-season has been considerable.
The boys went down to the Aqua Park the other day which has been the small glimmer of fun they’ve had within four and a half weeks of intense work.
It’s great to pull the players together and it’s something they enjoy doing.
Phase Two will be about bridging the work from Phase One - which was about conditioning, strength and rugby work - with phase three, where the games will start and we return to a ‘normal’ week of preparation.
Before we know it, the games will be thick and fast upon us and with two pre-season games ahead of us, we’re training with an eye to that as well.
It’s been a gradual build-up but the final week was excellent. We did three days on the bounce and worked really hard building up to this point.
We’ve done a lot of ball-in-play work, which can only benefit the group. We’ve had small-sided games and it’s been really tough alongside the conditioning blocks we have within it.
It’s about getting used to working hard once again and the first block has prepared us really well for that.
It’s taken a few sessions but we’ve got to a really good place, and the length of sessions has also increased.
We’re working on skills under pressure, as you’d get in games, and we’ve got the match stimulus in there. Bringing in elements of what we’ll experience in games at this point is vital.
Sometimes it can be hard to train that but in phase one it was brilliant throughout.
We’ve got a lot of different characters within the group, and you try to get them all involved.
You want to likes of Theo, Rey and Willis, amongst others, to bring their characters to the group and build on that.
It builds camaraderie between the boys, and it’s great to see.
The Aqua Park was good fun. I’ve never done that before but a few of the boys have and it was good to do something like that with the group after working so hard together in the morning.
It was a good way of brining boys together to finish of the block.
We were all disappointed with how last season went, and we don’t want it to happen again.
Some of that has to come from within the group and how we build relationships together. That’s massively important.
On Saturday mornings we’ve been together down to the beach, doing games and sessions, followed by coffee and breakfast together afterwards.
It’s an opportunity to get to know the new guys coming in as well as those you wouldn’t necessarily spend a lot of time with.
That’s been massively beneficial to the group.
No one wants to finish like last year, and that’s a massive driving factor.
There’s a group here who all want to get better, want to get stronger and always want to improve. That’s going to be the driving standards for us.
The fact is that we have guys who want to get better and achieve things but that won’t come by doing nothing. We’ve all got to work hard for it.
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